Norwich Union's (NU) Exeter office is in "turmoil" over plans to move its underwriting function to India, according to staff.

Sources said small business property underwriters based at the office are "dismayed" at having been offered motor and personal injury claims positions as an alternative to redundancy, after being told their positions were being relocated offshore.

An NU spokesman confirmed the changes, which he said are part of the strategy to offshore 2,350 jobs to India and centralise its UK office functions, announced by NU's parent, Aviva, last December. He said: "Their jobs are effectively being made redundant because some of their work is moving elsewhere. Some of it is moving to India."

The spokesman said that in future, the Exeter site would be a claims handling centre, with work being transferred from the Preston office, which has been closed. He said that of around 400 staff in the Exeter office, 40 are underwriters, and confirmed the company had offered them claims positions.

"The underwriters provide quotes for small commercial business over the phone. They're not out meeting brokers," he said. "It's not an unusual career move [from underwriting to claims]," he said. "It's comparable work."

"Obviously, we would offer them an opportunity to take up a claims job," the spokesman said. "The alternative is redundancy." But he said that compulsory redundancies were not forecast.

Local brokers who deal with the office have also expressed disappointment at the plans. One broker said: "Exeter small business centre is the most profitable small business centre in NU, with the best service standards. This seems mad to us brokers that deal with them."